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The shake (or trill), one of the earliest in use among the ancient graces, is also the chief and most frequent ornament of modern music, both vocal and instrumental. It consists of the regular and rapid alternation of a given note with the note above, such alternation continuing for the full duration of the written note. (On other instruments and on the voice, this definition of the shake holds good; text-books and methods will give examples of how the shake should be performed, but it is originally one of the ornaments designed for the keyboard, and most effective there.)

The shake is the head of a family of ornaments, all founded on the alternation of a principal note with a subsidiary notes one degree either above or below it, and comprising the mordent and pralltriller still in use, and the ribattuta and battement, both of which are now obsolete.





The sign of the shake is in modern music tr.


These two modes of performance differ considerably in effect, because the accent, which is always perceptible, however slight it may be, is given in the one case to the principal and in the other to the subsidiary note, and it is therefore important to ascertain which of the two methods should be adopted in any given case.

The question has been discussed with much fervor by various writers, and the conclusions arrived at have usually taken the form of a fixed adherence to one or other of the two modes, even in apparently unsuitable cases.

Most of the early masters, including Emanuel Bach, Marpurg, Turk, etc., held that all trills should begin with the upper note, while Hummel, Czerny, Moscheles, and modern teachers generally (with some exceptions) have preferred to begin on the principal note.

This diversity of opinion indicates two different views of the very nature of meaning of the shake; according to the latter, it is a trembling or pulsation – the reiteration of the principal note, though subject to continual momentary interruptions from the subsidiary note, gives a certain undulating effect not unlike that of the tremulant of the organ; according to the former, the shake is derived from the still older appoggiatura, and consists of a series of appoggiaturas with their resolutions – is in fact a kind of elaborated appoggiatura, and as such requires the accent to fall upon the upper or subsidiary note.

This view is enforced by most of the earlier authorities; thus Marpurg says, ‘the trill derives its origin from an appoggiatura and is in fact a series of descending appoggiaturas executed with the greatest rapidity.’ And Emanuel Bach, speaking of the employment of the shake in ancient (German) music, says ‘formerly the trill was usually only introduced after an appoggiatura,’ and he gave the following example:


Nevertheless, the theory which derives the shake from a trembling or pulsation, and therefore places the accent on the principal note, in which manner most shakes in modern music are executed, has the advantage of considerable, if not the highest antiquity.

For Caccini, in his Singing School (published 1601), describes the trillo as taught byhim to his pupils, and says that it consists of the rapid repetition of a single note, and that in learning to execute it the singer must begin with a crotchet and strike each note afresh upon the vowel a (ribattere ciascuua nota com la gola, sopra la vocale a). Curiously enough he also calls gruppo, which closely resembles the modern shake.





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